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Fissures vs. Fistula: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 28, 2023
Fissures are narrow openings or cracks in a surface, while fistula is an abnormal connection between two body parts, typically involving hollow organs.

Key Differences

Fissures and fistulas are both medical conditions that affect the body but in different ways. A fissure, specifically an anal fissure, is a small tear or cut in the lining of the anus, causing pain and bleeding during bowel movements. A fistula, on the other hand, is an abnormal connection or tunnel between two body parts that are not usually connected, such as the rectum and the skin. While fissures are typically associated with superficial tears, fistulas involve a deeper pathway that can lead to more complex medical issues.
When discussing fissures and fistulas, it's essential to understand their origins and causes. Fissures often result from passing large or hard stools, but can also be caused by inflammatory conditions, infections, or other traumas to the anal area. Fistulas, in contrast, usually arise due to an infection or abscess that hasn't healed properly. When the infected tissue dies, it can leave behind a tunnel – the fistula – which may connect the inside of the body to the outside.
Fissures and fistulas, though distinct conditions, can sometimes coexist. For instance, a persistent fissure that doesn't heal might lead to an abscess, which can eventually form a fistula. The symptoms of these two conditions can overlap, with both causing pain, irritation, and discharge. However, while a fissure might primarily lead to bright red bleeding after bowel movements, a fistula might produce a more persistent, foul-smelling discharge due to the passage of stool or pus through the abnormal connection.
In terms of treatment, fissures and fistulas have different approaches. Fissures usually benefit from measures that soften the stool, such as fiber supplements or topical ointments to promote healing and relieve pain. Fistulas, because of their complexity, often require surgical intervention to close or reroute the abnormal connection. This makes understanding the distinction between fissures and fistulas crucial for appropriate medical management.
While both fissures and fistulas relate to issues concerning the anal and rectal region, their implications for patient health and well-being differ considerably. A fissure, though painful, is usually a more straightforward condition with less invasive treatments. A fistula, with its deeper, tunnel-like nature, can introduce a higher risk of complications, including infections and further spread of disease. Recognizing the differences and similarities between these conditions is fundamental for timely diagnosis and effective care.

Comparison Chart


Cracks or splits in a surface
Abnormal connection between two body parts


Skin, mucous membranes, geological formations
Hollow organs, skin, tissues


Injury, strain, dryness
Infection, surgery, diseases


Pain, discomfort
Discharge, infection, discomfort


Often self-healing, creams
Usually requires surgical intervention

Fissures and Fistula Definitions


In medicine, a fissure is a crack in the skin.
She applied ointment to the fissure on her heel.


Fistulas often involve connections between hollow organs.
An anal fistula connected his intestine to the skin.


Geologically, fissures are cracks in the earth.
The earthquake caused fissures in the ground.


Fistulas can result from disease or injury.
The accident caused a traumatic fistula in his abdominal area.


A fissure is a long, narrow opening.
A fissure in the rock allowed climbers to grip it better.


A fistula is an abnormal or unnatural connection between body parts.
The patient was diagnosed with an intestinal fistula.


Fissures can also mean divisive gaps in beliefs or groups.
Fissures within the party threatened its unity.


Fistula refers to a medical condition involving two organs.
Surgery was required to repair the fistula between her bladder and uterus.


A fissure can refer to an emotional or psychological split.
The trauma created a fissure in his once strong confidence.


Fistula can be a complication following surgery.
Post-surgery, she developed a fistula that required additional intervention.


A long narrow opening; a crack or cleft.


A duct or passage resulting from injury, disease, or a congenital disorder that connects an abscess, cavity, or hollow organ to the body surface or to another hollow organ.


What is a fistula?

A fistula is an abnormal connection between two body parts, often hollow organs.

Can fissures heal on their own?

Many fissures, especially minor ones, can heal on their own with proper care.

Are fissures painful?

Fissures can cause sharp pain, especially during movements or stretching of the affected area.

What is a fissure?

A fissure is a narrow crack or split in the skin, mucous membrane, or surface.

Is surgery required for fistula?

Fistulas often require surgical intervention for treatment.

How is a fistula diagnosed?

Fistulas are diagnosed through physical examination, imaging tests, and sometimes endoscopy.

Can fissures be prevented?

Preventing constipation, maintaining hygiene, and avoiding strain can help prevent some types of fissures.

Do fissures bleed?

Some fissures, especially anal fissures, can lead to light bleeding.

How are fissures treated?

Treatment may include topical creams, sitz baths, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Is there a genetic predisposition to fistula?

While not directly genetic, certain conditions like Crohn’s disease have genetic components and can lead to fistula formation.

What's the difference between fissures and cracks?

In general context, they are often used interchangeably, but fissures imply a longer, more defined opening.

Can fistulas lead to other complications?

Yes, fistulas can lead to infections and other complications if not treated.

Can fistulas heal naturally?

Fistulas rarely heal naturally and usually require medical intervention.

Are anal fissures common?

Yes, anal fissures are a common type of fissure, often due to constipation.

Do fissures indicate a serious condition?

Most fissures are not serious and heal with proper care, but persistent ones should be evaluated by a doctor.

Are fistulas life-threatening?

While not typically life-threatening, untreated fistulas can lead to serious infections.

Can lifestyle changes help with fistula?

While lifestyle changes alone can’t cure fistula, they can help manage symptoms and prevent complications.

Can fissures occur anywhere on the body?

Fissures commonly occur on the skin and mucous membranes but can also refer to geological formations.

What are symptoms of fistula?

Symptoms include abnormal discharge, infection, and discomfort.

What causes fistula?

Fistulas can be caused by infection, surgery, injury, or diseases like Crohn’s disease.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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